Thank You for Making Me Feel Invincible!

Happy Birthday to you ♪♫•*¨*•.¸¸♥ ¸¸.•*
¨*•♫♪ Happy Birthday to you ♪♫•*¨*•.¸¸♥
¸¸.•*¨*•♫♪ Happy Birthday dear Helen Reddy!!!!! ♪♫•*¨*•.¸¸♥
¸¸.•*¨*•♫♪ Happy Birthday to you! ♪♫•*¨*•.¸¸♥

International superstar, Grammy Award winner, Golden Globe Award nominee and feminist Helen Reddy is celebrating her 78th birthday later this week (October 25).

HelenReddy2

My admiration for Helen is apparent with the many blogs I’ve written about her over the years.  On this special day, I want to say “thank you” for the incredible music she’s given us and I want to share my favorite Helen Reddy songs.

The first record I ever bought, thanks to my great grandparents, John and Helen Peoples, was Helen’s “Delta Dawn”.  I was almost 9-years-old and the writing was already on the wall! 🙂

Delta Dawn Helen Reddy

Also, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, I owned three 8-track tapes and one was “Helen Reddy’s Greatest Hits”.  The other two were were “Totally Hot” by Olivia Newton-John and “Glass Houses” by Billy Joel.

In the 1970s, I was too young to see her in concert.  It appeared she would be one of the singer I idolized, but would never get to see live because she gave a farewell concert performance in western Canada in 2002.  In 2008, she announced she was done with singing and entertaining.

Lucky for us, in 2012, she made an appearance at a jazz club in San Diego, California, and did a benefit for a school outside of Los Angeles and decided that she felt the joy of singing and performing again.

That’s how I got to see her in concert in early 2013 near Chicago and I almost got to meet her, but there was a mix-up at the theater.

Helen Reddy 1

Luckily, my friend Jim arranged for this gorgeous consolation gift!Helen Reddy Autograph

At the time, I was living in Moline, Illinois, which is about three hours west of Chicago.

Back in the 1970s and the 1980s, Helen performed in Illinois and Iowa, including Davenport, Iowa.

While she may not have done a concert in Moline, the second largest city in the Quad Cities, I’m sure she remembers it.

In late October 1973, around her 32nd birthday, she and her band were heading back to California after playing a show in Philadelphia on a leased private jet.  It encountered an intense thunderstorm in the Midwest and the plane started going down.

Helen says they were losing altitude so fast that it felt like they “hit a brick wall” and that “interior paneling started to snap out of its moorings” and cabin baggage was flying through the aircraft.

The pilots were able to get out of the storm’s downdraft and they regained control of the plane and they made an emergency landing at “a little airfield”, as Helen called it.

Moline from the air

That “little airfield” ended up being in Moline, Illinois!  🙂

If you ever get a chance, read Helen’s very entertaining 2006 autobiography, “The Woman I Am”.

The Woman I Am

While the book covers the highs and lows of her entertainment career, she also talks quite a bit about her love of genealogy and tracing her family’s history, her beliefs in reincarnation, and acquiring Addison’s Disease, which also affected President John F. Kennedy.

It traces Helen’s life from her Australian childhood growing up in a vaudeville entertainment household, having her kidney removed as a teenager, her first marriage (also as a teenager) to an older man (33), who turned out to be an alcoholic and an abusive husband.   But, something good came out of that failed marriage — her daughter, Traci.

In 1966, Helen appeared on the Australian show “Bandstand” and won a trip to New York City for a record audition.

Helen Reddy 1966.JPG

At the time, women were still referred to as “girl singers” and labels were afraid to promote the careers of too many women.  So, success in America, the creme de le creme of the world music market, would have to wait.

Helen sang wherever she could in the United States and Canada to make ends meet for her and her little girl, all alone and a world away from her family “down under””.

In the book, Helen cracked me up by only referring to her second husband and manager, Jeff Wald, as “Number Two”!  (After they divorced in the 1980s, Helen learned how vindictive he had been in closing doors on her musical career and the games he played with her involving their two children.  He also swindled her out of most of her earnings that took Helen much of the next two decades to recover from financially!)

In 1971, Helen recorded “I Believe In Music”, an Adult Contemporary hit for country singer and actor Mac Davis, but it was the flip side of the single, “I Don’t Know How To Love Him” from the musical “Jesus Christ Superstar” that became her first American hit.  It peaked at #13 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Helen Reddy I Dont Know How To Love Him.JPG

She would go on to chart thirteen more Top 40 hits on the Hot 100.  Six of them reached the Top Ten and three went all the way to #1!

Her Top Ten hits were “I Am Woman” (#1, 1972), “Delta Dawn” (#1, 1973), “Leave Me Alone (Ruby Red Dress)” (#3, 1973), “You and Me Against the World” (#9, 1974), “Angie Baby” (#1, 1974), and “Ain’t No Way to Treat a Lady” (#8, 1975).

Her last Hot 100 hit was 1977’s “You’re My World”, which peaked at #18.

In honor of her birthday, I’m counting down my 10 favorite Helen Reddy songs!

10

“YOU AND ME AGAINST THE WORLD”

#9

“AIN’T NO WAY TO TREAT A LADY”

8

“EMOTION”

#7 CD

“PEACEFUL”

6

“I DON’T KNOW HOW TO LOVE HIM”

5

LEAVE ME ALONE (RUBY RED DRESS)”

Interestingly enough, Helen now condemns this song as repetitive and points out that you hear the title of the song 43 times in the single.  I bet you’ll go back and listen to it now and count along. 🙂

She once told an audience that it is “one song I will never ever sing again” and “that sort of songwriting doesn’t do much for me, but it was a hit. However, I don’t have to sing it anymore if I don’t want to, and I don’t want to.”

When I saw her in concert in 2013, she didn’t perform it! 🙂

4

“ANGIE BABY”

#3 CD

“DELTA DAWN”

As I mentioned earlier, this was the first record I ever bought as an 8-year-old!

#2 MOVIE

KEEP ON SINGING”

Before I reveal my favorite Helen Reddy song, I want to share the powerful story behind it.

I also want to express how much the song means to me and how it helped shape me into becoming the man I am today!

Back in 1971, her own experiences in the entertainment business prompted her to write a song for her debut album that would become iconic more than a year later!  That song was “I Am Woman”!

Helen Reddy album.jpg

She says, “Women have always been objectified in showbiz. I’d be the opening act for a comic and as I was leaving the stage he’d say, ‘Yeah, take your clothes off and wait for me in the dressing room, I’ll be right there’. It was demeaning and humiliating for any woman to have that happen publicly.”

Helen knew things had to change and she believed with the right song, her voice could do that, “I remember lying in bed one night and the words, ‘I am strong, I am invincible, I am woman’, kept going over and over in my head.”

While the song was included on her 1971 album, Helen re-recorded “I Am Woman” in May 1972 and it was shipped to radio.  It stalled out at #97 and dropped off the chart!

Months later, it was released again!

This time, it took off and by the end of 1972, “I Am Woman” topped the chart becoming the first #1 song on the Billboard Hot 100 from an Australian-born artist and the first song written by an Australian to win a Grammy Award!

However, it was SO much more than that!

Helen Reddy became an icon in the fight for women’s rights and the song became an anthem for millions as the “women’s movement” for equality gathered steam.

Womens Lib.JPG

More than forty years after “I Am Woman” moved mountains for women demanding equality to men, the words of that song could apply to the LGBTQ community with regards to demanding the acceptance of Americans and the world for the same civil rights.

There are still 29 states in the United States where LGBTQ+ people can still be discriminated against with regards to employment, housing and more!

Helen Reddy, thank you for standing up for women in the early 1970s and for letting the strength of your words make me stronger in my fight until I make my (straight) brothers understand.

While I’m not a woman, the conviction of that song from my childhood inspired me as an adult to push forward in the gay rights and marriage equality movements.

It made me stronger and gave me the strength to stand up to anyone who ever tried to belittle me for being gay.

#1

“I AM WOMAN”

Helen has always been an advocate for women and gay men and equal treatment for all.

Thank you for the memories and thank you for all that you’ve done for us!

Happy Birthday and here’s to many more!

Anthony

 

 

 

3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Anne Cleghorn on October 22, 2019 at 1:38 pm

    I love you, keep on going.annecleghorn@5gmail.com

    Reply

  2. I am right there with you! Thank you for sharing!

    Reply

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